Understanding the statutory rape laws and the age of consent in Tennessee can help you to avoid the dire consequences of a conviction
As a general rule, engaging in consensual sexual relations is not a crime when both parties are adults and capable of giving consent. Problems arise when one of the parties is a minor. Engaging in sexual relations with a minor can lead to criminal charges under Tennessee and designation as a sex offender even if the minor consented.
Many of the sex crimes in Tennessee are predicated on a lack of consent by the victim, but the law recognizes the fact that not all victims are capable of giving consent. For example, a victim who is intoxicated or mentally impaired is not capable of consenting to sexual contact. Statutory rape laws take the concept of consent a step further by assuming that minors cannot consent due solely to their age.
Tennessee law defines an adult as someone who is 18 years of age or older. A minor is anyone who is younger than the age of majority. Sexual contact with a minor is a crime under state law because of the assumption that minors cannot give their consent. The age of the child relative to the age of the other party can affect the seriousness of the charges and the severity of the penalties, but the complexity of the laws can make it difficult for a defendant to fully understand the charges.
Sexual penetration of a minor who is at least 13 years of age by a person at least four years older is prosecuted as statutory rape if evidence shows that the victim consented. The charge is a Class E felony punishable by up to six years in prison and fines up to $3,000. If the defendant is at least ten years older than the victim, the charges increase to a Class D felony with fines up to $5,000 and a minimum prison sentence of two years with a maximum of 12.
The severity of rape charges increase when the victim is a minor who is less than 13 years of age. Not only is the victim incapable of giving consent because of the fact that he or she is a minor, but the age of the victim elevates the charges to a Class A felony punishable by a minimum prison sentence of 15 years up to a maximum of 60 years and fines up to $50,000.
Defendants charged with engaging in sexual relations with a minor might believe that a good faith belief that the victim was an adult capable of giving consent is a defense to the charges, but this is not true in most states, including Tennessee. Believing that someone is an adult is not a defense a defense when the person is actually a minor.
Adults holding positions of authority over a minor could be charged with sexual battery by an authority figure for engaging in sexual contact with a minor who is at least 13 years of age. Teachers, parents and others in positions of trust or authority could be charged with a Class C felony.
Sex crimes, including statutory rape, can require a defendant to register as a sex offender. Sex offenders can have limitations imposed on the types of jobs they can hold and the where they can live. There are, however, defenses that a person charged with committing a sex offense involving a minor might be able to employ. For instance, Tennessee law provides a defense to a statutory rape charge if the victim is at least 13 years of age and the defendant is less than four years older.
An experienced Murfreesboro criminal defense attorney might be able to identify defenses or mitigating circumstances that can help a defendant in a particular case. A free initial consultation with a skilled Murfreesboro criminal defense attorney at Dotson & Taylor could make a difference in your life if you are charged with sex crimes involving a minor. Call us at 615-890-1982 or use the contact form on our website to schedule an appointment.